Australian Survivor 2021 – “I’m Gonna Act As A Double Agent”

With the halfway mark now achieved and the two tribes becoming merged, big threats, strong allies and a couple of weird twists sent Australian Survivor into a familiar trajectory.

Drop your buffs! We are merged. The final 13 became 10 this week as the Brawn vs Brains divide held strong.

WEEK 5 RECAP

Episode 13

The tribes officially become merged, and are treated to an individual merge feast, where completing a challenge quickly sees you pick your food reward. When coming together at the old Brawn camp, the new ‘Fire’ tribe quickly split into two. Brains vs Brawn (+George and Cara). Yep, the only division which remained intact was Cara and George staying away from those who tried to vote them out, which is good news for Emmett and friends, who just want to use them until they can take their usefulness is over.

At the Immunity Challenge, Emmett claims the first win of the merge in a close endurance competition against Brains’ Andrew. Knowing they sit on the bottom with five against eight, Hayley attempts to flip Gerald and Flick to her side, but they quickly shoot the idea down. Instead, George wants to play double agent and is willing to work with the Brains on the down low to ensure Brawn slowly weakens itself. With Hayley possessing a public immunity idol, the Brawn alliance agree to put all their votes on Laura, hoping the idol isn’t played on her. And things look even better for the group when Kez manages to find her second idol of the season, frustrating George.

Now with the knowledge of Kez’s idol and the Brawn target, George quickly spills the beans to the Brains faction and implores them to save Laura and vote for Kez, flushing out the idol. Hayley has doubts George is exactly on their side, and worries he might be trying to pull a fast one over them. But at Tribal Council, everything goes to plan when Hayley saves Laura, negating all eight votes against her, and Kez is blindsided 4-1-8. But before she departs, she quickly hands over her idol to Flick (WHAT?!), foiling George’s idol-flush plan.

Episode 14

Despite taking out one of the Brawn alliance’s key members, a seven to five majority prevails over the remaining Brains. With no idol to protect her, and a wavering mistrust in George, Hayley expresses concern over her spot in the game. Meanwhile, Baden’s old allies Cara and George are just as much as tight with him as ever, albeit across alliance lines and in a seemingly hidden fashion.

At the Immunity Challenge, Jonathan reveals a bizarre twist is in store for that night’s Tribal Council. Instead of one winner, three people will secure Immunity, and will also be the only three to vote to send someone home. Emmett, Dani and Andrew all fill one of the three spots, giving Brawn the majority, 2-1. With an impossible chance to swing George and Cara back over due to the twist, Hayley is feeling the incoming heat and must appeal to Dani and Emmett in order to stay. She throws George under the bus and reveals to Dani she knew Laura was the previous target and that Kez had an idol, hoping this information could build trust with the Brawn crew and allow her to survive at least one more night.

Armed with valuable information, Emmett and Dani consider voting out Baden instead of the obvious target in Hayley, for his connections and secret chats with George and Cara. At Tribal, Jonathan reveals yet another twist. The three Immunity winners will battle in a fire-making challenge to determine who will cast the ONLY vote for the night. Andrew the survival expert and Emmett the growing challenge beast exchange a few words that basically just feel like a macho, “I’ve got more muscles than you,” showdown. But it’s Dani who’s left asking why a girl can’t be considered a contender that actually nags victory, and thus chooses who to vote out. She votes for Baden, but it’s not all bad news when he’s secretly sent to Redemption Rock to await a chance to return to the game.

Episode 15

After the previous Tribal Council, quiet Brawn ally Chelsea is taken away by the medical team for 24 hours, receiving the 24 hour sick immunity like Georgia had a couple of weeks prior. Still at the bottom and weakened to only four in her alliance, Hayley continues to target George for being a double agent, hoping she might gain favour with the Brawn. As Dani reconsiders whether she made the right move in voting out Baden over Hayley, George continues to feed the Brains information when he tells them he saw Kez pass Flick her idol, giving Hayley some strong information which could benefit her down the road.

At the Immunity Challenge, Emmett grabs his third win in a row and still remains safe for the entirety of the merge half of the game, so far. With her back against the wall, Hayley spills all the beans of George and Cara’s disloyalty to the rest of the Brawn tribe, trying to convince them he’s not a worthy ally. George catches wind of this and tries to convince the other three Brains to take Hayley down for being a traitor and outing his strategy to the Brawn.

At Tribal Council, all bets are off as Hayley and George battle to convince the Brawn of truth versus lies. Hayley drops the trump card that George told her about Flick’s idol, with Laura and Wai backing up Hayley’s claims. Andrew doesn’t however, and expresses disappointment in Hayley’s tactics. When the tribe votes, Hayley recognises it’s either her or Andrew and votes his way, but everyone else (allies and rivals alike) vote for Hayley, and she is voted out 9-1. She then joins Baden at Redemption Rock, waiting for her chance to seek revenge.

The next day, Chelsea’s still missing, and Jonathan arrives at camp to inform the tribe she has been removed for medical reasons, thus bringing the Brawn figure to only four left (six with George and Cara). The tribe then arrives at the Redemption Rock duel where Baden or Hayley will fight for their spot back in the game. Competing in an endurance classic, the challenge proves too difficult for Baden and he drops out, sending Hayley back to the Fire tribe and Baden to the Jury Villa, as the 1st member of this season’s jury.

IMAGE: NETWORK 10

WEEK 5 REVIEW

I was really excited for the merge, it’s a chance to shake things up, see who aligns with who and watch those initial tribal lines either tighten or fade. But I think this week kind of bungled that in a few ways this week. There’s a lot to unpack from twists to editing to an idol handover. So let’s dive right in.

I wanna address the elephant in the room from the week, what the hell were those twists in Episode 14? I’m seriously floored at the level of change up we witnessed just in that one setting. I feel like Australian Survivor kind of broke the mechanics of the game a little. Social, strategic, physical – the three winner twist was clearly geared towards more physical players, and thus, Brawn. And then forget all your alliances or deals or whatever you’re trying to spin, just hand two people the majority and let them make the decision to vote someone out of a $500k game. Oh wait no, let’s make it ONE of those three and let them just dictate the entire episode themselves. Seems fair right? Hayley, who had thus far proven to be one of the strongest strategic players of the season franchise, suddenly had no agency to manoeuvre through alliances and scramble to rally up numbers crucial to her survival. Yes, she stayed in this episode. But only out of some impressive convincing, and I’m gonna say a bit of luck.

The show has never shied away from crazy twists and doing things differently and exciting for the casual viewer. Sometimes, that’s appreciated. But more often than not, the ‘game changer’ twists do a lot worse than just change the game, they break the game. There’s little room to wiggle around and given it came so soon after the merge, did little to break this Brawn vs Brains mentality. One of my biggest gripes about it was that I was expecting an episode where it was up to George and Cara as swings to make a decision to either side with Brawn or Brains. They had majority whatever way they went. It would have drawn a line in the sand, and I think, have been quite exciting to watch. We missed out on this dynamic, and instead FORCED Hayley to spill the beans about George the double agent. Were the players kept on their toes? Yes. But was it at the expense of some compelling gameplay of watching the Brains scramble for the votes OR will George and Cara link up with their old frenemies? Absolutely. It just felt too much, too soon, and too destructive. The only thing that saved it a little was the fact Baden wasn’t sent home, and got a chance to stay. But it’s not great. So while I appreciate twists, can we not let it ruin an entire episode next time? Just vote someone out normally and send them to Redemption Rock. We don’t need the craziness beforehand.

What made this episode even worse than it probably could have been was that we basically edited in only five players – in fact, we’ve pretty much only had five players featured in this entire week. If you’ve just tuned in, you probably only remember George, Hayley, Dani and Emmett. This season hasn’t been 10/10 perfect with editing and giving everyone a decent showing (and keeping the viewer guessing as to who might make it to the end and win), but for the first four weeks, I thought editors have done a pretty good job considering the standards we’ve had with the show of recent. But Nope. Week five said not today my friend. WE ARE STILL WAITING ON A GERALD CONFESSIONAL – he hasn’t had one since Cara was on the Brawn tribe… FOR ONE EPISODE. I think it’s ludacris not to share the love around a little bit, even for filler moments where it’s just explaining the dynamics of the tribe or how important Immunity might be. SOMETHING! We haven’t heard from Cara at all about what she thinks about George playing double agent. She has never shown much interest in working with the Brains tribe, and we only associate her knowing what George is doing because we hear George and Hayley talk about it as such. Not because Cara says anything about it. So why is Cara happy playing the middle with George? Who knows, we certainly don’t. And then there’s Flick with the idol pass over, no confessional about that. No confessional from Laura when her name was on the chopping block for the merge. No confessional from Chelsea all season before she gets medically evacuated and we just never hear from her again. Nothing. Sloppy showing this week. Just when I thought things were looking up.

IMAGE: NETWORK 10

My last main criticism is the idol handing over rule we’ve all just discovered. Suddenly, a first in Survivor, we’re allowed to hand idols over to people after we’re voted out. SO WHAT’S THE POINT OF FLUSHING OUT AN IDOL? Seriously. Nothing against Flick or Kez, they did what’s in their game rules so I respect them for making it happen. But what the hell is this rule? Once you’re out, you’re done, seeya, it’s over. Your legacy is how you impacted your alliance and how your exit will change the tribe dynamics which may save one person and doom another. Not, oh here, I found something that would help me so now you get it for free. Nuh-uh. Not happy about this rule change, which was apparently in place during All-Stars too. Just stop breaking the game guys. Let the cast play.

And on that note, this is a pretty awesome cast, great players, great personalities, a pretty fine theme, just let them play. You don’t have to throw in a monkey wrench or change long-known rules for great TV. It can work, but it can also hurt too.

A big shoutout to Baden for becoming the 1st jury member, a great achievement and hopefully some sort of a reward for being pretty unfairly booted but also getting a tough draw in the Redemption challenge, which tends to favour smaller body types like Hayley’s. I really thought we were going to see him break out and become a bit of a dark horse, but it appears someone else will have to fill those shoes. But Hayley did return and had a bit of a rollercoaster ride this week. Last week I thought her fingers might have slowly been slipping from what was a pretty clear path to victory for her, and now we saw how it just fell completely. She made some mistakes this week, she cornered herself into the position of big threat, something it was clear she was trying to avoid. That Dani vote right before the merge I think really hurt her, and either she should have let Dani take the fall (and thus make Dani appear to be a much bigger threat than she came out like in reality), or roped in Simon’s loyalty to her by telling him to play an idol. Either way, Hayley entered the merge with a big target and that’s what got her sent home in a unanimous vote. Everyone saw how damaging she was as a player, and how willing she was to let everyone go. I thought the scramble to take out George was great, but just too late when you’re at the top of everyone’s radar. Luckily, I think she’s reset herself and could actually manage some longevity now that she’s back. Everyone will suddenly see Hayley as a number because she’s got no other choice. She was voted out unanimously, everyone will think they can take her out whenever they want and will instead use her to take out a big threat (cough, Emmett, cough). She got very lucky with the Redemption twist, and I hope I’m right in that she’ll find this reset a blessing and will use it to lay low for a little bit and just be a number for the right person.

Dani had a great showing this week, she wields a lot of power in her alliance and I think really solidified herself as someone that can make things happen. If you want a big move done, Dani will get your numbers for it and that makes her extremely dangerous going into Week 6. With so much already on her resume, I hope Dani just puts her foot on the brake a little bit, or else she’ll end up like Hayley and play herself into a threatening corner, one where Redemption Rock isn’t waiting to save you. Someone who already has put themselves on the radar is Emmett. Really? 12 straight Immunity challenges is your goal? Emmett shouldn’t have won so many so early and is now looking at an upcoming blindside. You know it’s coming. The second he loses, he’s pretty much done. Hell they take out Shaun in Champions vs Contenders just after winning ONE Immunity Challenge. Emmett has won three, four if you count that one back at the Double Tribal. I don’t think Emmett is escaping a vote anytime soon. And it’s a shame because I was just starting to like how he was thinking strategically and attempt to manage the Brawn alliance. Oh well, can’t win ’em all. Another big threat is George, who I think has his goose cooked unless he does something pretty incredible. He’s outed as a double agent, he’s pissed off both sides and leaked the presence of an idol. Dude’s gotta play something big. Funnily enough, he probably will. I don’t know, he’s a tough nut to crack and something tells me Cara will end up getting booted first from the duo. I’m looking forward to whatever he can scramble up next, but I do not think he will get to the end and win, whatever he manages to do for now.

Is there anyone else left in the game? Let’s touch on those recurring cast members to our main quartet. I still love Wai, I love how she backed up Hayley’s claims against George and also stayed weary of trusting George moving forward. Despite such short snippets from her this week, I really think she’s got a great strategic understanding of the game so far and is perfectly hiding behind the big threats while she works out who her best run to the end is. I do wish we had heard more from Laura, who I was interested in working out how she would play at the merge. But she was just very silent this week and I don’t have much to say. If the Brains are being targeted again and it’s one of Wai, Andrew or her, I’d say my money’s on Laura to somehow get the chop. And then Andrew, who kind of rubbed me the wrong way this week, frankly. Survival expert who can’t make fire? I mean sure, nerves get the best of us, but it was such a pivotal moment that could have seen another Brawn take a trip home and he bungled it. And then to not understand Hayley’s gameplay to save her ass when she had no choice but to throw George under the bus. I don’t understand his loyalty to George despite everything that’s transpired between him and the Brains. And not standing by an ally makes him seem fishy and lacking in strategic agency. I don’t think anyone can ever trust him. But it’s his game, and his overall plan. So if it works out for him (it won’t), I’ll applaud it.

IMAGE: NETWORK 10

On the Brawn alliance, I’m still not sure where Cara‘s head is at with this whole Brawn or Brains side. So there’s not much to say, really. I hope she’s still considering the Brains as a potential route, but if she’s all gun-ho for Brawn I don’t blame her. My only comment would be to find a crack soon or else Brawn will stay Brawn strong and Cara will be cut. I actually enjoy what we did see of Flick this week, of all the quiet characters we had, Flick at least had a good showing in going to Hayley and telling her she can’t work with her now but can down the road. She’s keeping her options open and allowing herself to fall down the pecking order when the Brains are trying to work out who needs to go. If they think they’ve got a chance with Flick, then it’s best to keep her around. So smart thinking on Flick’s part. I’m interested to see how the idol changes her game, and whether she’ll flush it out at the next Tribal or if she’ll find a way to harness it as a weapon much like Hayley did for a few Tribals. Here’s hoping it’s the latter. And then there’s Gerald. Well mate, we don’t know much about ya but I’m gonna say it’s not looking too good if Brains are willing to take him out when discussing voting plans. If it’s not Flick or Dani, and it can’t be Emmett with Immunity, then it’s gotta be Gerald. So he better find a way off the radar soon. But who really knows what Gerald is thinking, I think the show’s forgotten about him. Nice milk chug though!

My Week 5 takeaway: Great cast, so let the damn kids play.

THE TOP FIVE

Flick Palmateer, Hayley Leake, Emmett Pugh, Dani Beale, George Mladenov.
IMAGES: NETWORK 10

I mean, do I really need to say more? I picked pretty much the only five people we saw this week. So read above for full explanations, but otherwise I’ll give my quick descriptive thought about each of them below.
Flick = Forward thinker.
Hayley = Strategic underdog.
Emmett = A goner.
Dani = The boss.
George = Political scrambler.

If you missed out on viewing the Fantasy League update, make sure you check that out today. We’ll be back next week for another weekly review.

Featured Image: Network 10

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Australian Survivor: Brains vs Brawn continues 7:30pm, Sunday-Tuesday, on Channel 10!


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